The Best Book Series To Get Lost In

Courtesy of Europa Editions
Last summer, I finally got around to reading Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels. A few pages into Ferrante's sprawling story of a decades-long friendship, and I was hooked. While my family swam and tanned during a lazy beach week in Massachusetts, I jumped from book to book with fury. Sand is still in between the pages of each one.
While I adore Ferrante's literary, intelligent series, there are so many more collections of novels where that came from. Book series aren’t limited to Harry Potter or fantasy and science-fiction genres. In fact, there’s a series for every taste, from literary and witty, to warm and indulgent.
Memorial Day Weekend is approaching, and with that, the unofficial start of the summer season. With any luck, many sunny Saturday mornings on chaise lounges await you. What better way to whittle away the summer than by embarking on a reading project? Here are the best book series for adults.
Read These Stories Next:
1 of 11
The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer

In Annihilation, four unnamed women plunge into a mysterious landscape cordoned off from the rest of the world following a natural disaster. Area X, the name of this vast plot of land, has a mind of its own — literally. Many similar groups have ventured into the belly of the beast, facing sentient plants and large boars, and they've all returned somewhat damaged. Each subsequent book in this inventive series looks at Area X, and the terrible danger it poses to civilization (ie total annihilation), in a different way. VanderMeer uses a range of writing styles and narrators to convey the broad scope of his vision. A movie adaptation of Annihilation drops on February 23.
2 of 11
The Neapolitan Novels

by Elena Ferrante

Elena Greco is shocked to discover that her best friend of over 60 years, Lila Cerullo, has suddenly — and deliberately — disappeared. A writer, Elena is determined to recount her friendship with Lila in painstaking detail. These four novels are Elena’s account of the most important relationship in her life.

Elena and Lila met as precocious young girls in their rough, impoverished Naples neighborhood. Both girls claw at the rigid confines that threaten to turn them into haggard, defeated women like their mothers, and their grandmothers before them. Lila, ever fiery and unconventional, is constantly upsetting the neighborhood’s social order. But the quieter, more intellectual Elena goes the one place Lila never dares: Out of Naples, to college, and to a different life.

You’ll descend into Lila and Elena’s friendship and emerge, hundreds of pages later, like you just said farewell to your own brilliant friends.

Total books: 4
3 of 11
The David Mitchell Universe

While not a series, all of Mitchell’s brainy, multi-voiced, time-jumping novels exist in the same universe.

Part of the joy of reading, then, is in tracking the presence of the same characters at different points in their lives, in different books. For example, a main character in 2014’s The Bone Clocks appears in much younger form in 2010’s Black Swan Green, as the protagonist’s devious cousin. Connections between Mitchell’s labyrinthine novels become so complicated that Vulture decided to make a chart.

For an on-ramp to the Mitchell-verse, begin with his most famous novel, Cloud Atlas. Or, if fantastical novels aren’t your jam, start with the poignant coming-of-age novel, Black Swan Green.

Total books: 7
4 of 11
Tales Of The City

by Amistead Maupin

In this nine-novel series, Maupin brings to life the residents of 28 Barbary Lane, an apartment building in San Francisco. With the first installment written in 1978, Maupin tracked his characters’ lives over 40 years. By the time of the final novel, the characters share real estate with tech bros, and the landlady is 92. Warm and witty, Tales of the City was especially lauded for its nuanced portrayal of LGBTQ characters.

Total books: 9
5 of 11
The Cemetery Of Forgotten Books

by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

In 2001, Spanish writer Carlos Ruiz Zafón published a gripping, genre-bending, wildly successful novel called the Shadow of the Wind. At the start of The Shadow of the Wind, 10-year-old Daniel is brought to the “cemetery of lost books,” and takes a novel called The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. Fascinated, he tries to find more titles by Carax — only to discover that someone’s tracking down every copy of Carax’s books and burning them. Daniel becomes embroiled with in an enthralling, literary mystery, set in 1945 Barcelona.

Each ensuing title in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books cycle is set in the same gothic Barcelona, ripe with opportunity for book-related adventure.

Total books: 4
6 of 11
The Patrick Melrose Novels

by Edward St. Aubyn

If ever there were a master of bitingly funny dialogue and sharp, sardonic prose, it would be Edward St. Aubyn.

Each novel is set over the course of a single day in Patrick Melrose's privileged, but challenging, life. In the first novel, Never Mind, Patrick is a 5-year-old in Provence with his rich mother and sadistic father, whose abuse follows him forever. In Bad News, a 22-year-old Patrick retrieves his father’s ashes and then indulges, with vivid and gruesome detail, in his drug habit. The third, Some Hope, is set at a posh party, populated by people with Wildean wit. By the fourth, Patrick’s a father himself, and still has psychic trauma to work out.

The novels are bleak and devastating, yes. But from St. Aubyn’s pen, well — they’re also a feast.

Total books: 4
7 of 11
Outline & Transit

by Rachel Cusk

The premise of Outline is incredibly simple. In the slim novel, a writing teacher goes to Athens to teach, and has a series of conversations with people she meets. Outline is essentially a linked series of confessions told to a woman with barely any background biography. Still, this strange format is oddly hypnotic (I missed a train stop while reading Outline). Back in London in Transit, the same narrator has a series of conversations as she proceeds through her own personal upheaval.

Total books: 2
8 of 11
The Griffin & Sabine Series

by Nick Bantock

Griffin Moss is a lonely, gruff postcard designer living in London. One day, he receives a letter from Sabine Strohem, a stamp illustrator living on a (fictional) Pacific Island. Though Sabine is a total stranger, she somehow knows Griffin deeply. Is she a stranger? Is she a figment of Griffin's imagination? You’ll have to be pulled into their correspondence to find out.

These books are especially fun because the Griffin-Sabine correspondence is written on literal postcards, which you must take out from envelopes as you read.

Total books: 6
9 of 11
The New York Trilogy

by Paul Auster

Don’t expect neat, Agatha Christie endings from these post-modern detective stories. The aim of each off-kilter mystery is actually to inspire more mystery, not to solve a case. In City of Glass, for example, a detective writer named Quinn becomes enmeshed in a case that only he could’ve written up. Though Auster sets up City of Glass like a typical detective novel, it morphs into anything but.

Total books: 3
10 of 11
The Magicians Trilogy

by Lev Grossman

The Magicians is Harry Potter grown up, set in New York, and turned up to 11. Melancholy Quentin Coldwater spends his childhood reading about the fictional world of Fillory. Quentin has his Harry Potter moment when he’s admitted to the Brakebills Academy to learn to harness his magical powers. After graduating, he moves to New York and, along with his friends, discovers that Fillory’s real, and that he can use his powers to save the kingdom.

Total books: 3
11 of 11
David Sedaris' Entire Essay Collection

Meet David Sedaris' family. His six siblings. His Greek-American father. His American mother. His ever-patient partner, Hugh. In each of Sedaris' collections of autobiographical essays, the author brings us into his dysfunctional, warm, populated world. When these sardonic, hilarious essays are read consecutively, you grow to think of Sedaris and his family fondly, as though they're characters you've been following along for decades. More than a "series," these essay collections are really just remarkable and unique renderings of a life.

Total books: 7